22 January 2014


Mmm hmm, that about sums it up.

I have found myself saying that all too often these past few days.  Let me explain. . .

Background:  Edith, my paternal grandmother made every effort to conceal her history.  However, I learned a good portion of what I know about my grandparents while perched on her lap. 

As a child, knee-high to a grasshopper, I would travel with my grandparents to their summer home in Tioga County, Pennsylvania; a five hour drive from where we lived in Montgomery County.  I would often fall asleep listening to my grandparents reminisce about their life and days gone by.  Gram thought I was too young to understand or remember, so she felt safe in holding an open discussion with my grandfather.  It is where I learned that my Great Grandmother had died when Gram was two; where I learned that Gram had been married three times; where I learned that my Great Grandfather was something of a renowned rugby player; where I learned that my father was actually the son of Gram’s third husband.  I intuitively knew that the stories I heard were not to be discussed and nor should I ask questions.  The opportunity to do both would come in my late teens and early adulthood.

When I gave birth to my oldest son in 1988, I realized I was serious about documenting the genealogy of our family, I wanted my children to know of their Great Grandparents and their stories.  Without going into the sordid details here, my personal decision was not to document my adopted siblings.  So, initially I was only going to document my direct line.  But as I listened to the stories and information that my Uncle Art and Dad shared with me, I realized that they both held the man who raised them as his own in their hearts with much love, affection, respect and esteem, that I – because of my love for them – had to document the man they called Dad; I grew up calling him Pop-Pop.

Brief Biography:  Pop-Pop was known by his family – that is, my Grandmother, my Dad, my Uncle and my Aunt - as Edward P COSTELLO.  His parents were Pierce COSTELLO and Nora(h) KENNEDY.  He had three siblings, Mary was born in Ireland, June 1886.  Date of death is currently unknown.  Henry was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 12 January1889 and died 27 June 1889; Joseph, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 14 July 1890.  Date of death is currently unknown.

A year or so ago, my Dad gave me Pop-Pop’s birth certificate [1].  Notice anything amiss? 

Birth Certificate - Percy Costello

The child’s given name – Pierce COSTELLO.  No middle name or initial on the document.  Not really a big deal; we knew Pop-pop, as I said, as Edward P(ierce) COSTELLO and it was believed that he was named after his father.  But then . . .

Research:  The 1900 US Federal Census [2]

1900 Census

Crap!  Percy?  Everything else matches, but . . . Percy?  And, still no middle name or initial.  Okay, Google, what do you have for me?  While I did not find anything definitive, I did find that Percy could be a nickname for Pierce.  So is Percy COSTELLO, Pierce / Edward COSTELLO?  The parents match.  The siblings match.  His date of and location of birth match.  But . . .

Wanting to be sure, I decided to stop there and do a little more research on his parents, Pierce and Nora(h) and his siblings.  First, I located Henry’s death certificate [3]

Death Certificate - Henry Costello - 1889

and, I located both a death certificate [4] and obituary for Nora(h) [5]

Death Certificate - Norah Kennedy Costello - 1912

Norah (KENNEDY) COSTELLO, date of birth: 8 June 1852*, date of death: 7 May 1912.  The informant listed on the death certificate was her son, Joseph K. COSTELLO. 

* The death certificate provides her date of birth, as noted above as 8 June 1852 and her age as 49 years, 10 months and 4 days.  This however, was in direct conflict with the information I had - the 1900 U.S. Federal census enumerates her birth as August 1862.  Using the Family Tree Maker 2014 Date Calculator Tool, I entered in the date of the ‘Known Event;’ the date of Death and Norah’s ‘age at the time of the event;’ 49 years, 10 months and 4 days.  The date calculator calculated Norah’s date of birth as 3 July 1862.  I believe the birth year on the death certificate (1852) is in error.  It should be 1862.  June / July – I’ll not quibble over a month.

Obituary - Nora(h) K - 7 May 1912

Transcription:  COSTELLO – 7th inst. Norah K COSTELLO widow of Pierce COSTELLO relatives and friends invited to funeral Friday 8:30 a.m. residence, 1725 N 29th Street High Mass at church of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord.  10 a.m. Interment private, Holy Cross

and an obituary for Pierce. [6]

Obituary - Pierce Costello - 1910

Transcription:  COSTELLO – On December 17, 1910, Pierce COSTELLO, beloved husband of Norah COSTELLO.  Relatives and friends are invited to attend the funeral, on Wednesday morning, at 8:30 o’clock, from his late residence 2044 N 29th Street.  High requiem mass in the church of the Most Precious Blood at 10 o’clock precisely.  Internment in Holy Cross Cemetery.

The Holy Cross cemetery, where both Pierce and Norah are buried is located in Yeadon, Delaware County, PA.  On 2 December 2013, I wrote a letter to the cemetery and inquired after any information / records they may have on both Pierce and Norah COSTELLO. 

And, on 12 December 2013 the Cemetery replied.[7]  Pierce was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon, Delaware County, Pennsylvania on 2 December 1910 in Section Q; range 8; lot 32; grave 4; 8.  Norah was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon, Delaware County, Pennsylvania on 8 May 1912, in Section Q; range 8; lot 32; grave 4; 6.  Neither Pierce or Norah have a headstone or marker.

Burial - Pierce and Norah Costello 

Crap!  No further information and the Lot List from Holy Cross Cemetery  lists Pierce’s internment as 2 December 1910, however, the 20 December 1910 Philadelphia Inquirer obituary records his date of death as 17 December 1910.  I need to find the death certificate! 

Noting that both obituaries indicated that a High Requiem Mass would be held in the church of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord, consulted Google and learned that the church was formerly located at 28th and Diamond Streets, Philadelphia, PA.  It was in operation from 1907 – 1993.  And, that its spiritual records are kept at Saint Martin de Porres Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On 2 December I wrote to Saint Martin de Porres Church and inquired about the possibility of obtaining copies of spiritual records that they might hold on Pierce, Norah and the COSTELLO family.  This past Monday, 20 January, I received a letter from Elaine, Secretery, Saint Martin de Porres.  The opening sentence . . .

“Dear Tracy, I was not able to locate any sacrament records for your family members . . .

Crap!  Nothing!  Nada!  Zip!  Zilch!  Zero!  On the COSTELLO family.  But, wait!  Elaine goes on to say . . .

“Most Precious Blood of Our Lord opened a couple years before Pierce’s funeral, 1907, it was not open during the time the children would have been baptized.”

“The family may have been attending Mass at Saint Columba’s for a time before Most Precious Blood of Our Lord was open, it was an ‘Irish’ ethnic parish.  Saint Columba opened in 1895, too late for the children’s baptisms to have been done at that church, but long enough to have been their parish.”

A glimmer of hope . . . maybe?  So back to Google . . .

Crap!  Saint Columba Parish is currently known in Philadelphia as Saint Martin de Porres.  Again, we are back to no family records; no information!

But wait!  The Registration of Deaths in the city of Philadelphia [8] recorded that Henry was buried at Saint Mary’s.

Registration of Deaths - Henry Costello - 1889 

Okay, I am beginning to feel that searching Google is like playing and trying to win the lottery; they are both a crap shoot.  Google brought me to Find a Grave; here is what I learned about Saint Mary’s. [9]

St. Mary's Cemetery was located at 11th and Moore Streets in South Philadelphia. According to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's website, this cemetery was loosely associated with Old Saint Mary's Church, located at 4th and Spruce Streets in Olde City, although the majority of the people buried in this cemetery were residents of South Philadelphia and not necessarily members of the parish. 

In May 1899, St. Mary's Cemetery (located at 13th and Budd {now Spruce} Streets), a second cemetery belonging to the aforementioned church, was sold and bodies that were not claimed were then moved to the New Saint Mary's Cemetery at 11th and Moore. This cemetery was active from the 1840s until the 1880s. By 1910, the cemetery was neglected and a fire (date unknown) destroyed the cemetery records. The bodies in Saint Mary's were re-interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Delaware County, PA in a mass grave.  In the 1950's, St. Maria Goretti High School for Girls (now Neumann-Goretti Catholic High School) was built on the site. 

Handwritten transcriptions from tombstones were transcribed into a copybook, which can be found at the Archdiocesan Historical Research Center in Wynnewood, Delaware County, PA. Also, some burial records from the years 1844-1850, 1851-1859 and 1859-1878 survived. [8]

Crap!  The cemetery was neglected; a fire destroyed the cemetery records; the bodies were re-interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in a mass grave.  Stymied again.

Crap!  Crap!  Crap!  Cr . . .!  While I am reasonably sure that Pierce COSTELLO; aka Percy COSTELLO; aka Edward P COSTELLO are one and the same, I was hoping to find something a bit more tangible to ‘hang my hat’ on.  What are your thoughts on this? 

This hasn’t been an exhaustive search; but, I’m exhausted.  Finding information, documents, records, stories, etc. are what give you the adrenalin rush.  When you don’t find those things; when your research is foiled by fires and church closures . . . it’s draining – emotionally / physically. 

Is it odd that I am so invested?  I would love to hear your stories; how do you deal with the research disappointments?



  1. Pennsylvania, Department of Public Health, Birth Certificate, Division of Vital Statistics, Philadelphia
  2. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County, 1900 U.S. Census, Population Schedule, Digital, Images, familysearch.org, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-12124-140298-2?cc=1325221&wc=M94B-KQX:1561426785 : 1900
  3. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, Images, familysearch.org, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-11599-10383-67?cc=1320976&wc=MMRX-2GM:n1001805491 : 1803 - 1915
  4. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County, Philadelphia City Death Certificate, Images, familysearch.org, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-11060-121073-64?cc=1320976&wc=MMRX-K85:1030069461 : 1803 – 1915
  5. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Inquirer, Volume 166, Issue 129, Page 17, Images, genealogybank.com, http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/newspapers/doc/v2:110C9BFA1F116650@GBNEWS-115C644BE278C0B8@2419531-115C644F76685070@18-115C64597A7721F0@/?search_terms=Costello%7CNorah&s_dlid=DL0114012313371811906&s_ecproduct=SUB-Y-6995-R.IO-30&s_ecprodtype=RENEW-A-R&s_trackval=&s_siteloc=&s_referrer=&s_subterm=Subscription%20until%3A%2004%2F12%2F2014&s_docsbal=%20&s_subexpires=04%2F12%2F2014&s_docstart=&s_docsleft=&s_docsread=&s_username=themeyers4@cox.net&s_accountid=AC0112031318192710064&s_upgradeable=no : Wednesday, 8 May 1912
  6. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Inquirer, Volume 163, Issue 173, page 7, Images, genealogybank.com, http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/newspapers/doc/v2:110C9BFA1F116650@GBNEWS-1128F9A1F20B18A0@2419026-1128F9A4D9017188@6-1128F9ADA4AB6BB0@/?search_terms=Costello%7CPierce&s_dlid=DL0114012313482315917&s_ecproduct=SUB-Y-6995-R.IO-30&s_ecprodtype=RENEW-A-R&s_trackval=&s_siteloc=&s_referrer=&s_subterm=Subscription%20until%3A%2004%2F12%2F2014&s_docsbal=%20&s_subexpires=04%2F12%2F2014&s_docstart=&s_docsleft=&s_docsread=&s_username=themeyers4@cox.net&s_accountid=AC0112031318192710064&s_upgradeable=no : Tuesday, 20 December 1910
  7. Holy Cross Cemetery Office (Yeadon, Pennsylvania) to Tracy L Meyers. Lot Inquiry List. 2013
  8. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803 – 1915, Index and Images, Family Search, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12896-159494-4?cc=1320976&wc=MMRX-V5W:n923836804
  9. Find A Grave, Cemetery Lookup, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=2288414 : 22 January 2014


  1. Tracy: This is a wonderfully detailed account of your mystery tour to try to solve the puzzle abut your grandfather's actual name! I am adding this to my Saturday Serendipity post today.


    1. John, thank you. And, thank you also for the mention on your Saturday post.

  2. This was a great post, Tracy! I think we can all commiserate with you in your 'close, but not quite' search.

    1. Thank you Sally. I hope that you'll visit Family Preserves again.

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